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Doug Landau
Doug Landau
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Punishment trumps self-preservation: American seat belt use

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Everyone at Abrams Landau was surprised to find out that in matters of traffic safety, drivers respond more readily to the threat of punishment than safety enticements. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") study tracked the steady increase in seat-belt use since 1994 against a corresponding decline in the number of highway fatalities in which seat belts were not used. According to news reports, the findings buttressed the belief that in matters of traffic safety, American drivers respond more readily to the threat of punishment than enticements based on self-preservation.

  • The failure of the "buckle up for safety" campaign in contrast to the current "click it or ticket" program often is cited by those who advocate more punitive laws.

The study found seat-belt use higher in states with laws that allow police to stop drivers solely for not wearing them. Some states do not allow the police to stop a car for the failure to wear a safety belt; occupants are ticketed only if they are legally stopped for another infraction and are then found to be in violation of this law. Compliance was lower in states that required an officer to find another violation for which to stop a driver before issuing a seat-belt citation. At the Landau Law Shop, we support the enforcement of the safety belt laws. As a former prosecutor, Doug Landau supports laws that allow the police to stop motorists who are not wearing safety belts. Enforcement of this safety law will save lives, reduce injuries and disability from car crashes and reinforce the importance of using all available safety equipment.